EAST LIVERPOOL - If the customer in front of you at the local department store was purchasing Styrofoam cups, cough syrup, Sprite, Jolly Ranchers and Gummi Bears, would you give him even a questioning glance?
Most likely not, yet that customer just purchased all the makings of a drug that has gained popularity among young people.
That was just one of many facts shared Tuesday at the East Liverpool Motor Lodge during Operation Street Smart, an award-winning, nationally renowned program presented by undercover officers to a roomful of parents, concerned officials, social service agency staff members, educators and law enforcement officers.
Lt Shawn Bain and retired Sgt. Michael Powell of the Franklin County Sheriff's Office, gave a sobering four-hour presentation aimed at enlightening the community on current drug trends, how young people get the drugs they're taking, how they hide them and refer to them and the effects on their bodies and lives.
A display of devices used to ingest drugs showed such surprisingly normal items as a large hollowed-out bolt, while a power strip lying on the floor turned out to be deceptive: Although its light was on, it wasn't plugged in, and the officers showed that it was actually battery operated and had a compartment in which drugs could be concealed.
The aforementioned cough syrup and accoutrements were included in a startling video of a young man who showed, step-by-step how the Jolly Ranchers candies and Sprite are used to dull the taste of cough syrup in a mixture often referred to as "drank" or even "deuce," "tre" or "fo" that indicates how many ounces of cough medicine was used in its making.
Another video showed the effects over-the-counter medications had on three teen-age girls, who were obviously impaired.
The officers emphasized, "There's nothing wrong with (an OTC medication) when taken with respect." With Powell urging, "Every time you give them medicine, whether they're 2 or 22, tell them if they abuse it, it can take their life.
In an emotional discussion, Powell told of two parents who spent the evening with their 16-year-old son a responsible athlete and scholar who died later that night after "huffing" from an aerosol can of computer keyboard cleaner in his bed.
"He was gone within two minutes," Powell said.
Bain talked about the recent trend to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes, relating that he walked into a medical marijuana doctor's office in California and pretended to be suffering from migraines.
The exam room consisted of a card table, two metal chairs and "not even a blood pressure cuff," according to Bain, who said there was, however, a display of pipes used for smoking marijuana in the lobby.
After being asked a couple questions, paying $110 and giving his hotel address as his residential address, Bain was issued a certificate making it legal for him to smoke marijuana for his "migraines."
"It's a big money-making scam," he told the laughing audience.
A host of other drugs, including K2 or spice that had until recently been legal to sell, was explained, and the officers encouraged those present to watch closely in the trash, with Bain saying, "People using drugs get reckless," and throw packaging and jars away.
Powell told of two young boys who both smoked "superpush," a type of the K2 drug, both ending up hospitalized and drew gasps from the audience when he related that one of the boys is OK, while the other one's family is just waiting for him to die.
"There's no quality control. The second package might have 50 times the potency (of the first). It's crazy what these kids are putting in their bodies without knowing what it is," Bain said.
Bain also pointed out that song lyrics often refer obliquely, or sometimes brazenly, to drug terminology, saying it doesn't matter what genre of music.
Officers from a number of police departments attended the presentation, including Lisbon, Leetonia, St. Clair Township, Wellsville, East Palestine, Wellsville, Salem and the Columbiana County Sheriff's Department.
The program was sponsored by ADAPT Coalition, Columbiana County Drug Task Force and Columbiana County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board.